Writing is easiest for me when it’s story-telling; when all of the elements of sentence structure, unity, coherence, tone, therapy, insight, and creative channels are balanced and stirred in like a good perlo or gumbo—a one-pot dish that bring its own satisfaction and holds its character and taste over time.
For others, it seems, writing is an easy path and aid to lying and mischief. When writing or using language, they are unaccountable to craft or subject (or self!). The gifts of sounding ideas to the eye, of recalling, describing and interpreting actions is used to cast a net of darkness. I call it the looking glass syndrome—writing which is only a mirror of images planted by the observing eye—that ignore what the eye really observed.
Is the yawing child sleep deprived or happily satiated? Is a government that will defund the nation’s entire organized healthcare system one that is providing for the common good or one pushing an ideological agenda—blind to human costs off the balance sheet? Why would any writer use their gifts to lie, mislead, and arrange words that, if followed, would bring death? Words that to the intimacy of a reader’s eye, bring in blame, bring what bullets bring; and murder by word.
After this week’s Navy Yard murders, and Newtown, and the Boston Marathon bombings, be reminded there are many ways to kill. The crack of the gun puts us on edge; we hear it in our deep invisible space. But on its heels is another weapon, the word—written and spoken.
The NRA is trying to murder you with words. Its litany of reasons wrapped in the flag when they explain why gun safety measures would not reduce gun crimes and murders in the country with the world’s highest statistics of these incidents, these words will cause unmeasured deaths.
Buy a gun on Sunday, kill on Monday, read the press release on Tuesday, bury the dead shrouded in grief later in the week. But pass no legislation that alters even slightly the access to guns of those who can easily be denied open purchase, as three mentally ill shooters have done only days before their mass sprees.
The House, every time it votes to repeal Obamacare—with no alternative, thereby throwing the entire health system into last minute chaos, wasting millions of dollars in the reset—is voting for a bill that will put a statistical number of Americans at death’s door. They are electing death in their bid for reelection: a vote “yea” is an agreement to kill.
Recently, we have seen that the words of kids online have the power to kill. Cyber-bullying has the effect of throwing a child off in a way few understand. As an internet writer, I understand. It’s not the personal attacks that are the “push,” it’s to suddenly be immersed in a society that has no points of trust, only fear and pain at every turn, a feeling of being condemned by people who have surrounded you and left you no way out. Continue reading Wordkill
ONE: Party Scooper?
Sarah Palin has managed to turn feigned anger into a pretty damned lucrative pseudo-career. Now on her second stint with Fox News and coming off a headlining appearance at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual “Road to Majority” shindig, Palin’s newest gambit is to imply that she might cut and run from the Republican Party. The GOP power structure would probably be relieved were this to happen, but only to a point. Palin’s enduring popularity with zero-information conservatives could be the catalyst for a significant number of traditionally reliable Republican voters bolting for weirder pastures.
Asked by a Twitter questioner whether she and rightwing radio loudmouth Mark Levin might “be willing to build a ‘Freedom Party’ if [the] GOP continues to ignore conservatives,” Palin got right down to some of that fancy pageant walkin’ that remains her only true aptitude:
“I love the name of that party — the ‘Freedom Party,’” Palin said. “And if the GOP continues to back away from the planks in our platform, from the principles that built this party of Lincoln and Reagan, then yeah, more and more of us are going to start saying, ‘You know, what’s wrong with being independent,’ kind of with that libertarian streak that much of us have.”
Yes, uh, much of them do. Putting aside the absurdity of her characterization of Republicans as the “party of Lincoln and Reagan” – which is like calling Chicago the “city of Studs Terkel and John Wayne Gacy” – I’m guessing she could no more name a plank in the party platform than she could name a newspaper back in 2008. Palin continued, in commendably fluent Palinese:
“In other words, we want government to back off and not infringe upon our rights. I think there will be a lot of us who start saying ‘GOP, if you abandon us, we have nowhere else to go except to become more independent and not enlisted in a one or the other private majority parties that rule in our nation, either a Democrat or a Republican.’ Remember these are private parties, and you know, no one forces us to be enlisted in either party.”
Darn right they don’t, Governor. I won’t get my hopes up that this is anything more than you pandering to your fans, but if your comments were at all sincere, I look forward to you and your acolytes fancy pageant walkin’ your splinter cell, and the GOP, straight to permanent electoral oblivion.
TWO: Through a Glass Snarkly
Barack Obama’s first term was barely underway when I experienced my first queasy twinges of disappointment. At first, it was nothing overt, nothing readily explicable; a strangely off-kilter statement here, an abrupt about-face there. Soon came the willful misrepresentations, blatant distortions, even bald-faced lies. Almost before I knew it, I found myself feeling more and more burned, betrayed, deceived. The sentiments gradually intensified over months and years, eventually becoming something resembling utter, exasperated disgust.
I’m not referring to the President’s policies and actions (even ones I oppose adamantly, such as Race to the Top, the escalation in Afghanistan, some woeful compromises on energy policy and the environment, and some pretty questionable appointments). I’m referring to the hypertensive squawking that now passes for “criticism” across a broad swath of the cyber-left, and what has devolved into a churlish and counterproductive reaction to this presidency.
The recurring clichés tell a lot of the story. He “lied” about closing Gitmo. He “lied” about ending George Bush’s wars. He “dragged his feet” on DADT and DOMA. He “rolled over” on even trying to implement a universal, single-payer health care system and then “shrugged” at the failure of the public option. He “bailed out” Wall Street and “ignored” Main Street. He “embraced” the use of drones and expanded it to new operational theaters. He “ramped up” persecution of altruistic medical marijuana operations and courageous whistleblowers alike. He brutally “suppressed” the Occupy movement. He “wasted” his “huge” majorities from 2009 to 2011 and got “nothing” accomplished. He eschewed using the “power” of the bully pulpit (while giving “nice” speeches). And now he is “revealed” to have taken the surveillance state to new heights of “intrusive” overreach and “Orwellian” excess.
Throughout the Bush years, I depended on a host of progressive pundits and bloggers to keep me informed, encouraged and emboldened. Some of the very same people now seem more interested in inciting a howling mob to stand in a perpetual downpour outside the gates of the citadel, declaring as one that this presidency and this President have been failures. For some, it seems as if Barack Obama was de-legitimized merely by winning office and actually having to govern.
At the heart of much of the “criticism” is a sense that the “critics” feel jilted somehow, that the duplicitous Barack Obama represented himself as FDR Redux, that he campaigned as a fire-breathing progressive, that he was supposed somehow to govern simply by asking himself what George Bush would have done on any issue and then immediately doing the diametrical opposite. I don’t doubt that some of this is genuine and heartfelt, but it’s still heavily underpinned by the fierce urgency of unreasonable expectations and an unhealthy ignorance of basic civics, not to mention an oddly selective critical faculty that takes nothing the government says at face value but will readily suspend skepticism over the latest inane Paulite bullshit, or worse.
Equally illuminating is the strident name-calling found at the larger nominally progressive discussion sites (one of which purports to exist in part to “elect more Democrats”). Expressing confidence in the Democratic Party and the President, or articulating any degree of comfort with the notion of incremental change and willingness to accept the frustrations of compromise and misstep is simply courting vituperation. The epithets this supposed heresy solicits, some dating all the way back to early 2009, have become more and more meaningless as they have become more and more venomous: DINO, DLCer, Third Wayer, Vichy Dem, sellout, apologist, propagandist, fanboi, Kool-Aid drinker, authoritarian, worshipper. It’s debate by tantrum.
Add to this an astonishing compulsion to play the victim. Rahm Emmanuel called me retarded! I’ve been hippie-punched! The Catfood Commission wants to kill my granny! Robert Gibbs dissed the Professional Left, and I’m a leftist so he obviously meant me! Obama said I’m all wee-weed up! Obama told me to eat my peas!
A lot of this is grandstanding, theatrical ego-tripping; start with, say, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West and you can draw a direct line right to the oh-so-aggrieved message board bloviators who insist in the face of any and all evidence to the contrary that Obama is worse than Bush, to a frenetic chorus of hurrahs. The new frontier of perpetual outrage is limitless; anyone can stake a claim.
And then there’s race. The last thing in the world I want to believe is that any sincere liberal would have a problem with the President’s skin color, but comments from some quarters about his supposed passivity and ineptitude don’t sound very different to me from accusations of shiftlessness. There’s a rank ugliness about some of this that’s hard to fathom if it’s anything other than racism.
These things aren’t universal, of course. There are still rational voices on the left side of the Internet, and I count myself very grateful to be aligned with some of them right here on this site. Those voices don’t shy away from honest criticism where honest criticism is due. As well, only a fool would believe that the Obama Administration hasn’t mishandled and misjudged the progressive cyber-community on more than one occasion. But the potential impact of the digital grassroots has been blunted mostly by the shocking willingness of so many to wallow in disinformation and histrionics. The promise of a synergy between elected power and a vigorous leftosphere leveraging technology for information sharing and activism is lost in a miasma of all-caps paranoia and misdirected anger. A community organizer can’t organize a community that refuses to be organized. Continue reading Take Five (The Anger Games edition)
ONE: And a Little Child Shall Impede Them
Tennessee Republican state senator Stacey Campfield describes himself on his blog as “just an average guy….with a real cool job.” The trouble is that Campfield seems to believe his job is to be an utter dick. Take for example his newest idea, noted here a couple of weeks back, a bill to slash TANF benefits by 30 percent for households with children performing unsatisfactorily in school.
Last week, Campfield asked fellow legislators to hold the bill “for further study,” shortly after he was shown up by an eight-year-old girl. Aamira Fetuga confronted Campfield in the state Capitol and handed him a petition with 2,500 signatures in opposition to the legislation. Campfield’s immediate reaction, as expected, was to be a complete dick:
“How are you? Thanks for coming,” Campfield said, taking the petition. “I love it when people use children as props.”
And I love it when a politician who once proposed issuing death certificates for aborted fetuses lectures other people about props. Campfield quickly cut and ran from his pint-sized nemesis, or tried to:
He then set off on the three-minute walk to the Senate chamber. Rasheedat Fetuga, founder of child advocacy group Gideon’s Army, which organized the protest along with Clergy for Justice and Stand for Children, shouted after him that her daughter was not a prop and that he works for the people…
Well, Rasheedat was half right; her daughter is certainly not a prop. In fact, Aamira was a full participant, and seemed admirably self-possessed and engagingly direct:
“I’m worried about the lights being cut off,” she said.
“That won’t happen as long as you have a decent parent who can show up for two conferences,” Campfield replied.
He was referring to a provision in the bill stipulating that parents could avoid having their family’s benefits slashed by jumping through one of a number of possible hoops: “an eight-hour parenting class, meeting twice with teachers, enrolling a child in summer school or arranging tutoring.”
After taking refuge in the Senate chamber only to find that several Republican senators previously onside were now opposed, Campfield finally withdrew the bill. For now, anyway; a crucial element of Campfield’s comprehensive dickishness is his persistence. I offer as Exhibit A the fact that he has been introducing various iterations of his “Don’t Say Gay” bill for fully half a decade now.
For more context, check out Les Leopold’s horrifying new overview of what happened in Tennessee while civilization had its back turned and absolute dicks like Stacey Campfield were elected to positions of power.
Last word goes to the wholly unreconstructed dick himself, an exceedingly rare example of Campfield actually being correct about something:
“There’s always going to be detractors.”
TWO: Love and Marriage
A recent poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal finds that 53 percent of respondents support same-sex marriage. Among Democrats, it was favored by 73 percent of respondents, while 66 percent of Republicans continue to support discrimination.
So it wasn’t exactly shocking that the RNC, at its spring meeting in LA, decided to renew its official opposition to marriage equality, by supposedly unanimous voice vote:
Resolved, the Republican National Committee affirms its support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and as the optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of America; and be it further
Resolved, the Republican National Committee implores the U. S. Supreme Court to uphold the sanctity of marriage in its rulings on California’s Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Now, a cynical observer just might think the Republican Party’s definitive reaffirmation of institutional bigotry is a response to the threat of reliable money spigots being turned off, but of course it could be simply a remarkable coincidence:
After the Republican National Committee hinted at new outreach to gay voters, and possibly changing its stance or at least its tone on gay-rights issues, 11 influential social-conservative groups aired their grievances in a letter addressed to [Reince] Priebus timed to coincide with the start of the RNC’s meeting…
“We respectfully warn GOP leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support…”
Even more suspiciously, the “unanimous” aspect of the resolution’s approval was cast into doubt by an unfortunately soft-spoken attendee:
… Robert Kabel, a gay committeeman from the District of Columbia who supports allowing same sex nuptials, didn’t speak up. At least not loud enough for anyone to hear him.
Immediately after the vote… Priebus declared that all 157 members present had supported the measure.
… Kabel insists he dissented.
“I voted against the resolution. I did, it just wasn’t very vocal,” Kabel said after the meeting. “It’s hard to hear in here.”
Others, however, made themselves heard loudly, one being Michigan’s Dave Agema, the resolution’s sponsor. Agema appeared on a Family Research Council radio show to expound on his views in more detail:
“What I’d like to have the homosexual community know is I don’t hate them,” he said. “As a matter of fact when Jesus caught a woman in the act of adultery when they brought her to him he said, ‘I don’t condemn you but go and sin no more.’ That ought to be the church’s goal here. We ought to be saying to these people, ‘Hey, we don’t agree with your lifestyle and we’ll help you get out of it, but we want you to know the facts of what’s going to happen to you if you stay in this lifestyle.’”
The former state representative from West Michigan entered the national debate on gay marriage two weeks ago by sharing an article on Facebook titled “Everyone Should Know These Statistics on Homosexuality,” which began with a warning to parents that their children could be “indoctrinated” at public schools.
Agema repeated that claim on Wednesday, saying that school kids are already being conditioned to accept homosexuality and that “the next thing that will occur is your kids will come home and say, ‘I think this is a good thing and I think I want to be one.’”
Yet when it comes to ludicrous views about homosexuality, Agema is a callow hobbyist compared with Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, who recently treated his radio audience to this sarcastic tirade:
“We’re getting to the point where these homofascists are going to force us to wear on our sleeves some kind of identifying marker so people will know who the racists and the homophobes and the bigots are, and can stay away from them.”
The very same day, a different but equally appalling take was offered up by the reflexively offensive Bill Donohue, loosely hinged president of the Catholic League, in a television appearance on Current:
“This idea of two men getting married is the most bizarre idea in human history,” Donohue told host John Fugelsang, adding that the purpose of marriage is a “duty” to procreate.
“The whole purpose of marriage is to have a family,” he said. “It’s not about making people happy. It’s not about love.”
I’m beginning to understand why Donohue’s marriage ended in divorce. Continue reading Take Five (Mouths of Babes edition)
By its nature, a rule produces a reaction which can go in either direction, toward compliance or resistance. The NRA, by its nature, resists all gun rules. It consistently demands extreme freedoms (yes, even freedoms can be extreme!) to own and buy and sell the most dangerous weapons of death available to American citizens. Its strategy to resist rules and regulations has been to wrap guns in the flag, and leverage its ideology with cash from supporters and gun manufacturers. So in the NRA view, guns are no longer thought of a commercial product. They are extensions of the Constitution. The constitutional protections afforded ownership, in the NRA view, should be extended to the marketplace. Background checks, equipment limits, and other rules are seen as interfering with the end result of ownership. In the NRA world, not only is ownership constitutionally protected, the marketplace should be unregulated.
Is a constitutional right abridged if a marketplace connected to that right is regulated? Is the right to own a gun mirrored in the right to buy and sell? More importantly, doesn’t the Constitution protect citizens in a way that they can be free from the intentional and unintentional dangers associated with the use of guns? Does the government have the right under the Constitution to pass laws that make me, you, and others less likely to die, singularly and en masse, at the hands of an instrument that others see as the source of the defense of life and freedom? Should the risk associated with guns be greater for some than for others? Is that risk mitigated or increased if we all own guns?
Of course, cars kill people, too. Society has inherent risks. Yet a study released last May by the Washington-based Violence Policy Center found gun deaths actually exceeded car deaths in ten states in 2009. Bloomberg News reported this will be true as a national statistic by 2015! As the numbers of cars on streets and roads increased, public policy, focused on safety (seat belts, enforcement of driving under the influence laws at the local level, improved safety equipment by auto makers, child seats) have saved lives. Deaths from auto fatalities diminished by 22 percent in just five years, from 2005 to 2010. Dramatic proof of the good use of public policy!
But can parallel effective public policy be crafted to save lives when tied to the one instrument whose ownership involves not only fun, sports and collecting, but also involves a latent but inherent right to kill, even if in the name of public and personal safety and the Constitution?
Research is one way of looking at these questions to determine the impact of policy on gun violence deaths and injuries. Gun violence ranges from suicide (52 percent of all suicides) to mass spree killings, growing more common and commanding public attention. Best estimates (probably slightly understated) say 87 people die per day from gun violence. (I have also seen dramatically larger estimates. Whatever the number, a problem, by fact and comparison exists.) Can policy reduce this number?
In the debate over policy, let’s not forget women are on the front lines. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says 58 percent of domestic violence homicides committed against women involve a male intimate acquaintance using a gun.
An older study by two Harvard professors found the US has the highest rate of domestic violence gun murders—82 percent of total murders of an aggregate of 25 high-income nations, while having only 32 percent of the aggregate female population. Every study, every statistic indicates that women are at risk from gun deaths in situations of domestic violence and that the risk is not lessened by gun ownership by women in the household.
In fact, for women the home is the most dangerous source of gun violence and murder against women. Guns of all types are statistically more likely to be used to kill women in their households than to prevent crime or personal attacks (self-defense). Continue reading Working Rules
“Paradox” is often a word that appears in this column; it’s a fancy way of saying truth embodies its own opposite—in other words, there are exceptions to our most cherished beliefs, our proudest achievements, to every law, rule and principle, to mathematical models and even divine intervention, as there is one historically reported exception to the irreversible finality of death.
But in the national debate about guns and death, the National Rifle Association (NRA) makes no exceptions. They claim truth without paradox. Their leadership believes and expresses confidence the Second Amendment doesn’t provide for any exceptions. Since no law can stop the use of guns for murder, there should be no laws. Since, in their judgment, old laws were ineffective, there is no need for new laws. Since laws will have loopholes and workarounds, what’s the point? Their logic of default hides a fatal flaw found in the paradox of their absolutes.
That paradox is found not in their faith in the gun but in the law. They think the Second Amendment is set in stone. It’s not. As with all bad law, it can be repealed. In fact, I will raise the ante and hereby call for its repeal. It wouldn’t be the first amendment to be repealed.
Whether successful or not, it opens another political front and will force the NRA to divide its energy and resources. The call for repeal mimics the successful strategy of going after policy issues by swinging for the home run—by going after the law which is the context for the policy. The Second Amendment threatens my safety. I have been a victim of robbery at gun point. The right to bear arms has resulted in 1500+ gun connected deaths since the Newtown incident. This “cherished” ideal is tarnished. I call for the Second Amendment’s repeal. Continue reading Repeal the Second Amendment!
On the day before one of the biggest mea culpas in sports, the awaited Oprah interview with Lance Armstrong, the efforts to delegitimize President Obama in his second term have increased their velocity and are becoming more extreme and desperate. The efforts are also bigger and more ridiculous. And sad and tragic.
As the empty chair staged at the Republican convention quickly became a set piece to symbolize lynching as empty chairs were roped and swung from trees, so from the tragedy of Newtown, a legion of “truthers” have taken snippets of video and blasted the internet with lies. But look beyond the unfounded proofs that are asserted as facts. What the errors of facts and leaps of judgement and flights of make-believe reveal is a distress that is emotionally frayed. Its deep anger and helplessness has nothing to do with Newtown or the government—or the falsehoods strenuously pushed as facts.
It takes several deep breaths to get past the conclusions that are passing for facts about Newtown. It takes deep reflection to understand the attraction of this insanity in the comment streams. It leaves a country wondering whether it can survive as a civil society when hate and ideology seem to grow without constraint, grabbing our sorrow into its arcade.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) released a computer app for ages four and up that simulates an indoor practice range, and allows players to shoot a digital rifle (M9) at targets that are human coffins that are painted with bulls-eyes one by one. When targeted and hit, the casket falls to the ground, flat. For ninety-nine cents, the app upgrades the firing weapon. Does this promote responsible gun ownership and safety? Is it encouraging the use of safe firearm technologies, including owner recognition? The NRA says yes; their free “one touch” app provides safety information and other updates.
Does the app warn youngsters about the dangers of gun accidents in language they can read or understand? No, but Apple’s iTunes lists it as available to four-year-olds, since it is only shooting at coffins and not human action figures, and therefore is not deemed violent. Does it require supervision? No. Yet it creates the NRA version of video games the NRA argues are responsible for gun violence in the first place. Now the NRA has added to the culture it claims makes killing an attractive macho fantasy with game of its own—for four-year-olds—by reinforcing the thrill for children as young as four of pulling the trigger and watching the coffins fall. Again. And Again. It scores every hit.
The newest National Rifle Association ad,out today, calls the President an “Elitist Hypocrite.” That description is a direct personal attack. It also uses his two children as a part of the attack. They have armed coverage, the ad says. Why shouldn’t the rest of America’s children have armed protection?
Can the same level of training and professionalism be guaranteed for all of America’s children? In the form of teachers, principals, volunteers, and security armed, with no prior experience, nominal training, and no common standard? Or will it vary, as do educational results?
But to the point: do other American kids receive death threats every day? Yes, the President’s adorable girls receive a stream of unpublicized threats. Do other kids get their names associated with the darkest, sickest acts that humans can commit against each other? When given the opportunity for taking the high ground and leading a national stand-down, the NRA instead issued more slime, called attention to the President’s children, adding the kind of inflammatory labels they believe to be partly responsible for the rise in random violence! Their ad targets the President with no real facts, just as spree killers with no real ties target those they want to take out. And the ad ignores and fails to answer the big question: will banning assault rifles reduce the threat for all children, everywhere?
So the NRA ignores the level of threat faced by the President’s family. It ignores that more guns means more opportunities for their misuse. And the NRA ignores that its own ads and apps celebrate and push what it claims to deplore, making them hypocrites and liars, and elitists who value guns over saving lives.
The NRA ad exhibits the same blind fury that shooters do. Its words have the same purpose as bullets.
But Newtown has become a creation myth of disbelief. What’s interesting is no society can sustain itself on negatives, can govern itself as outlaws, can sustain a war against civil authority. The long-term conflicts in Africa’s western, central and eastern regions show clearly the scars of sustained conflicts, both political and armed. Hunger, poverty, illness, violence, helplessness, despair, assassination, and loss of family and community lead to a life of fear and want. But America is unique in trying to build a consensus on disbelief. Continue reading What Do Newtown Conspiracies Really Cover Up?